The idea for creating "Nadeshda" project
“Anyone who closes his eyes to the past
is blind to the present”
Richard von Weizsacker
Belarusians and Germans share mixed fortunes during their history, so full of numerous dreadful events. Belarus lost a quarter of its pre-war population in period of German occupation during World War II, and the crimes committed in the name of the German people did leave an eternal imprint on the Belarusian society. Yet understanding of the injustice of the German party towards the peoples of the Soviet Union haunted many minds, even in the post-war Federal Republic of Germany. In particular, as early as in 1950, the representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany were in search for the ways for repentance and reconciliation. Many Germans availed of the opportunity to ask the inhabitants of the Soviet Union forgiveness for the crimes committed during the World War II. The opportunity presented itself in mid-1980, due to the perestroika ("restructuring") policy of the current General Secretary of Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, when the “iron curtain” was dismantled to allow free movement of people.
Partners interested in reconciliation who were ready to accept apologies were found in the Soviet Peace Committee and its numerous republican branches. In May 1988, the Christian Peace Service organized the first “political pilgrimage” to Moscow and Minsk in cooperation with the Soviet Peace Committee and the Belarusian Peace Committee. The sincere commotion of 149 German visitors to Khatyn, the memorial complex created to commemorate the destructed Belarusian villages that struck them most of all, ushered in the new period of “building bridges of understanding” between them and the Belarusian people who made it possible to take other steps from confrontation to cooperation.
The second “political pilgrimage” was initiated by the Organization "Mennerarbeit" of the Evangelical Church of Germany in 1989. It brought approximately 70 German participants namely in Belarus just the day before the 50th anniversary of the start of World War II. A new misfortune of the Belarusian people – the Chernobyl disaster – cast its dark shadow over the pilgrimage. Three years had passed after the explosion of the fourth block of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant but people stayed in the in the territories contaminated with radionuclides as far as they were not aware of all the dangers that had brought about the disaster. The first maps giving a rough idea of the contamination degree were published by Soviet newspapers as late as in February 1989. And again, approximately a quarter of Belarusian population suffered from the disaster. Yet there was no enemy to expel, because even one hundred or one thousand years after the disaster the soil would remain contaminated with the radioactive elements that are dangerous for human beings. This being the case, on July 3, 1989, on the 45th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from German occupation, the Belarusian Peace Committee, in cooperation with other Belarusian nonprofit organizations, addressed the compatriots with a request for help in order to overcome the aftermaths of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant.
Not only the compatriots but practically all of the participants to the second “political pilgrimage” responded the request. As early as in 1986,the Chernobyl disaster literally shocked many Germans because it demonstrated that the dangers associated with using peaceful atomic power had no boundaries and did endanger life on Earth. A lot of people were convinced that Chernobyl could have occurred anywhere on the globe, this is why the participants to the second “political pilgrimage” decided not to leave Belarus alone to fight the multilateral and long-term aftermaths of the disaster, after Belarus had received 70% of the radioactive fall-outs from the Chernobyl reactor. Consequently, the second pilgrimage had to encounter the issue of how to join efforts of the Belarusians and the Germans in order to abate the aftermaths of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant. The solution for the issue also shaped a new solution for conciliation. Immediately after the second “political pilgrimage”, a Chernobyl working group was formed in Frankfurt on the Main under the Christian Peace Service,in order to find possible ways to help the affected population. In March 1990, the working group was transformed into "Leben nach Tschernobyl" (“Life after Chernobyl”) project committee. Its office was originally located in the premises of "Mennerarbeit" organization of the Evangelical Church of Germany.
The name “Life after Chernobyl” is of a great importance and stresses two facts. On the one hand, it underlines the fact that Chernobyl imminently divided the lives of the affected people into two parts – before and after, and that there is no return to the previous, secure life. On the other hand, it expresses the hope that life shall remain possible even after Chernobyl on condition that the people learn their lessons from the disaster. In June 1990, a conference aimed to discuss adequate measures for combating the aftermaths of the disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant was held in Berlin by the "Leben nach Tschernobyl" project committee in cooperation with other Belarusian and German nonprofit organizations. In particular, the members of Belarusian Ecological Union (BEU)who got acquainted with the "Leben nach Tschernobyl" project committee during the political pilgrimages, took part in the conference. The conference allowed the project committee members and BEU representatives to coordinate the actions to be taken after Chernobyl. The Berlin conference marked the start of a long-term partnership which was officially recognized by simultaneously creating two homonymous organizations – Charitable fund "Leben nach Tschernobyl" (Frankfurt am Main) and "Life after Chernobyl" Humanitarian Foundation, Republican Non-Governmental Organization (Minsk).
Both the partners, in cooperation with "Mennerarbeit" organization of the Evangelical Church of Germany, the State of Hessen radio company and many other organizations, immediately started other numerous campaigns: relief consignments, administering medical aid, measuring radionuclides content in soil and foodstuffs, on-the-job training of teachers and agronomists, etc. All these measures being absolutely necessary and practical, yet they left the initiators dissatisfied with the achievement due to the isolated nature of such measures. The objective of the initiators was to join the efforts in order to minimize the aftermaths ofthe disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and to implement measures of a the long-term nature that would embrace all the spheres of human life and that would help to discover new projects of life for the growing generation of Belarusians in their country as a part of common Europe. This objective inspired an idea shaped in 1990-1991. The idea also inspired the State Committee for the Aftermaths of the Disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plantto create an all year round health resort institution of health resort treatment and rehabilitation for children and teenagers suffered from the aftermaths of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant and to provide for its further participatory development and maintenance.